Areas covered include:

apostrophes  • colons • commas • dashes • hyphens • periods • quotation marks • semicolons • spacing • telephone numbers • time • underlining


  • On the keyboard, use the apostrophe [ ’] instead of the foot mark [ ‘]. The apostrophe is also used as the closing mark to a quotation within a quotation, which requires single quotes. This distinction may be difficult to see in all sizes of type. On the keyboard, the key to the right of the semicolon/colon serves as foot and inch marks; they must be replaced by their “curly” versions found on the following keys in all typefaces:
On the Mac, Type: To Create:
Option [ “ [Opening quot. marks]
Option Shift [ ” [Closing quot. marks]
Option ] ‘ [Opening single quot. mark]
Option Shift ] ’ [Closing single or apostrophe]
  • Use an apostrophe with Alma’s team name Scots, following the same rules as with other plural nouns ending in s.

The Scots’ baseball team won the game.

The Scots’ women’s soccer team will play at Olivet next weekend.

Note: Try to avoid several possessives in a row by rewording the sentence.

  • The plural possessive of woman is women’s.

The women’s soccer coach had winning season!

  • Use an apostrophe in the name of an academic degree. Remember that a generic degree name is not capitalized.

RIGHT: He earned a master’s degree at Michigan State University.

WRONG: Her bachelors degree was completed in political science.

WRONG: She earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology.


  • A colon is not used at the end of a sentence that precedes a bulleted list if the wording in the list completes the sentence.

Among those honored with special recognition in 1991–92 were
• David Brown of Gulliver.
• Fifteen first year students, sophomores and juniors.

Several Tartan Club activities were held around the country including
• receptions.
• outings.
• boat cruises.


  • Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before a conjunction in a simple series.

RIGHT: Alma College does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, creed, gender, national origin, physical ability, race, religion or sexual orientation.

WRONG: The flag is red, white, and blue.

  • Some series do require a comma before the conjunction for clarification.

Faculty were appointed to represent the English, Business Administration, Biology, and Theatre and Dance departments.

  • Use commas to set off the individual elements in addresses and names of geographical places.

Sam was living in Washington, D.C., eight years ago.

  • Do not use a comma to separate an alumnus’ name from the graduation year when writing for College publications.

Daniel Raleigh ’69


  • En dashes ( – ) are used between words indicating a duration, such as hourly time or months or years. No space is needed on either side of an en dash though kerning might be appropriate. Game scores should be separated by an en dash without any spaces between the dash and the information. Create an en dash by typing Option-hyphen.

1:45–2:15 p.m.
10:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

  • Em dashes ( — ) are used often as a substitute for a colon or parentheses, to indicate an abrupt change in thought, or in a spot where a period is too strong and a comma is too weak. Do not use two hyphens for this mark of punctuation. One space is used on each side of the em dash. Create an em dash by typing Option-Shift-hyphen.


  • Hyphens are strictly for hyphenating words or line breaks. No space is needed on either side of a hyphen.
  • Use hyphens after the prefix pre in the following words:
For Publications For Releases*
Pre-Dentistry pre-dentistry
Pre-Engineering pre-engineering
Pre-Law pre-law
Pre-Medicine pre-medicine
Pre-Ministry pre-ministry
Pre-Occupational Therapy pre-occupational therapy
Pre-Physical Therapy pre-physical therapy
Pre-Professional pre-professional
Pre-Season pre-season

*cap if in headline

  • Use a hyphen in mid-Michigan.
  • Do not use hyphens in the following words:

cross country (sport)
vice president

Anne Jones works part time in Alma’s Art and Design Department.

Alma employs 84 full-time and 52 part-time faculty.

Call Alma College toll free by dialing 1-800-321-ALMA.

Use Alma’s toll-free number: 1-800-321-ALMA.

  • Some words used as modifiers require hyphens when the modifiers precede the word they modify. However, no hyphens are used on the modifier when it follows the word modified.

Her up-to-date resume simply needed to be folded.

Her resume was up to date.

  • Use an en dash to separate two parts of consecutive numbers.

Academic Catalogs from 2004–05 and earlier are not available online.

  • Use a hyphen in compound constructions such as problem-solving or degree-seeking when functioning as adjective modifiers. The hyphen is not needed when the meaning is clear and it has been dropped through common usage — civil service employee or continuing education credit.
  • Use hyphens in constructions containing two or more compounds that share a common element that is omitted in all but the final term.

second- and third-year students

short- and long-term goals

  • Do not hyphenate an -ly adverb with an adjective.

RIGHT: highly proficient

WRONG: highly-proficient

  • Use a hyphen when well accompanies an adjective before a noun.

A well-executed move

A well-dressed woman

  • When used as a predicate adjective, drop the hyphen.

The move was well executed.


  • Use periods after abbreviations for degrees and time.

a.m.   •   B.S.   •   M.A.   •   Ph.D.   •   p.m.   •   U.P. (Upper Peninsula)

  • Do not use periods after accepted acronyms.

Model UN

EXCEPTION: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Quotation Marks

For typesetting information, see “Apostrophes”

  • Periods and commas are always placed inside quotation marks. The dash, semicolon, question mark and exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.

She said, “I think that’s right.”

The instructor asked the class, “How does this scene move the plot along?”

Which character said, “The quality of mercy is not strained …”?

  • A quotation of two or more sentences, which at the same time runs to four or more typewritten lines should be set off from the text, indented in its entirety one pica or about 1/4 of an inch from the left marginal line, with no quotation marks at beginning or end.

In the following essay, the author quotes the president of the college who stated

The most important element of Alma College’s academic experience, however, may not be visible in this catalog. That element is the close, mentoring relationship fostered between faculty and students.


  • Use a semicolon to separate two independent clauses containing related information. No coordinating conjunction is used with a semicolon.

RIGHT: Presbyterians founded Alma College in 1886; to this day, the institution retains a strong church relationship.

WRONG: Some of our most loyal supporters are non-degreed alumni; and we value their loyalty.

  • When one or more elements in a series contains a comma, a semicolon should be used to separate elements. Keep construction parallel. The semicolon should be retained before the conjunction.

RIGHT: The athletes were from Rockford, Ill.; Tiffin, Ohio; Gettysburg, Pa; and Bridgeport, W.Va.

WRONG: Attending will be Mr. Thomas, the superintendent, Mrs. Jones, the principal, Mr. Smith, the football coach, and Ms. Leland, the science instructor.


  • Use only one space after any punctuation that separates two sentences. This rule also applies to spacing after colons, semicolons, etc.

Telephone Numbers

  • When incorporating telephone numbers into the text of a letter, publication or article, use the following style:

RIGHT: Please feel free to contact me at (989) 463-7327. [One space after the right parentheses]

WRONG: You can reach me by phoning 989/463-7327.

WRONG: Please call me at (989)463-7327. [No space between right parentheses and phone number]

  • When referring to Alma College’s toll-free number, use the following style:

RIGHT: 1-800-321-ALMA

WRONG: (800) 321-ALMA


  • Use lowercase a.m. and p.m. Use noon and midnight rather than 12 noon or 12 midnight.

RIGHT: The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the Reid-Knox Memorial Room.

WRONG: Don’t forget to attend the concert from 8 P.M. to 12 midnight.

  • Noon and midnight should not be abbreviated or used with a number.


  • Use italics instead of underlining when identifying the names of publications.